I originally purchased this book with the intention of having my strongly held beliefs regarding consumerism and materialism verified. I expected this read to consist primarily of me nodding my head in agreement as the authors trumpeted the evils of the consumerist lifestyle and brought their years of research and experience in this area to bear on this so very relevant and problematic issue. However, this did not turn out to be the case. After about page 10 I realised that something was wrong with this book and it had nothing to do with a lack of knowledge, experience or literary skill.
It is hard to criticise a book whose core arguments, underlying philosophy and general world view you agree with, but this book is filled with so much garbage science and biased logic it is impossible to award it special treatment for being right, as it is right for all the wrong reasons.
I am a scientific person and a realist. I am an avid environmentalist and have even removed my television because I believe it is a bad influence. For work, I conduct economic research for a university in Sydney, and as such I believe that the plausibility for any argument is based primarily on its supporting facts and underlying logic. For someone of my persuasion, this book is an arduous medley of disparate quotations, faulty logic and 'feel-good' exoneration. Do you feel "restless", "bored", "unsatisfied" or "de-individualized"? Well, dont worry its not your fault, its the evil corporations and mass media "which deliberately attempts to exploit them (consumers) by offering new products... repressing their individuality... and promises to fill the emptiness" (p.80). This is just one of the BS arguments that is presented over and over again in this book without any justification. Why feel guilty when you know you can blame someone else? And who else is easier to vilify than the money-grubbing corporations and advertisers who try to "vitiate the true purposes, dignity and savour of life". I can hear the shackles of the proletariat cracking already.
This book in a pseudo-Marxist tirade on capitalism and its uneven allocation of resources, which is fine in my books, and the main premise of this book promotes some form of idyll over continual industrial and technological expansion, but instead of offering a philosophy of their own they just bunch together a collection of random quotes on anti-consumerism. This is one of this books biggest failings - they never even alude to 'why' materialism and the capitalist system is wrong, they dont attempt to provide an alternative philosophy or why the alternative lifestyle they promote is superior or even justified. Instead they simply try to entice the reader with the promise that all your worries and hardship will evaporate when you give up the consumerist lifestyle and adopt something more minimalist. It is cold-reading and scapegoating at its worst.
They say that people are working too hard, the hours they work are too long and they are forgoing the more meaningful pursuits of life in exchange for more stuff. That overwork is a primary cause of depression, divorce, listlessness, the break down of the family unit, stroke, cancer and car accidents. This point is argued over and over in this book, without any scientific support. Have these authors never considered the possibility that people may gain satisfaction from working hard and being the best they can be? That their work may be helping society or improving our understanding of the universe? Would you tell an olympic athlete who is dedicated to being the best that he shouldn't train so hard? Or that a charity worker shouldn't go overseas because it could put strain on their relationships at home? For anyone who believes that hard work and dedication are virtues, this book will be head-shakingly irritating.
However bad these problems, it is the logical contradictions and scientific solecisms made on almost every page (!) that is the real failing of this book. In one chapter they will argue that product homogenization is destroying individuality and in the next chapter say that the huge diversity of products is clouding our ability to make the 'right' decisions (chp 10 and 11). They will quote the statistic on the increase in the average work week, then quote the statistic on the rise in sleep deprivation, and then quote the number of car accidents resulting from people falling asleep at the wheel and without any justification say that working too hard causes car accidents (p.45). They run a double standard for profiteering corporations and environmental conservationists (p.56, 61 &186). They lack a basic understanding of the economic concepts of purchasing power parity, the measurement of GDP or efficiency wages, although they quote these economic variables to support their arguments freely. I couldn't possibly list every questionable or downright BS argument they make, but suffice it to say that every time I read something I disagreed with I would note down next to it why and mark the page with a fold in the corner. Well, my copy of Affluenze is now more than three times as thick as the original as 2 out of every 3 pages is folded.
I found this book and its corrupt form of argument unsatisfying and irksome. Other peoples quotes make up 50% of the book (and 95% of the valid points) and almost none of the ideas in the book are original. This book completely misses the point about why consumerism is bad; that its is wrong to judge people based upon the value of their possessions or the degree of their celebrity; that capitalism is a goal-less exercise that destroys the environment for the sake of 'individual utility' and a 'keeping up with the jones' arms race; that we (eukacaryotes) have battled through half a billion years of evolution just to squander everything Earth has to offer in a final outburst of maximising our emotional indulgence.